Savvy finished her daily flirt with Derek, so we went on our way back to the winery. Or, tried to. We rode past Big Bonnie’s house and she immediately started calling for us…as this Herman. I cringed. If he was a real person, I hope he never found out about this stunt of hers. I would be mortified if she was pretending to be me.
Apparently Bright was going to get to be part of some of the errands today. Bonnie wasn’t going to leave us alone until we talked to her.
Well, she’d been up to the clock, and it was apparently fixable. But (important there), when she’d left, she’d thrown her tools into the fountain. I feel sorry for anything that uses that fountain for a water source! But since the sun was up, she couldn’t leave her steps to get the tools herself, so that’s where Savvy and I came in.
For once, doing someone’s errand wasn’t a hassle at all. I didn’t mind splashing around in the fountain, and even the ponies got into it, slapping at the water and snorting. I kept an eye on Bright though, making sure his back feet didn’t get wet and make the thrush worse. He seemed to realize that it was a good idea and didn’t try it. The tools were rusted messes, hidden under the piles of Jorvik shillings, but still there. I wrinkled my nose and was glad for my gloves so the rust wouldn’t get everywhere.
Did Bonnie think of that rust? Of course not, that would be logical. She was creating a fuss, but Savvy slapped her on the back to knock her out of it. After she recovered, she added that we needed oil to lubricate the clock (which sound dirtier than was intended, I’m sure, but that didn’t keep me from flushing). Savvy thought Steve might have oil, so we went over to talk to him. It turns out he had diesel, which…is not oil. But he said it would work, so I thought we could at least try it.
Bonnie was still upset over her tools when we came back. Savvy pointed out we’d just take them to Conrad and it would be an easy fix. We took the ponies back to Moorland, going the other way so we didn’t have to pass Josh again, and found him. He had us fetch him some wood for the forge, which was easy enough.
But then he starts in on his needing special metal business again, and I just felt like I would faint in dread. Not another tomb, please! He didn’t tell us where exactly he was sending us yet, instead sending us after a tent. A tent? Surely we weren’t going to need a tent on whatever fetching task he had for us… We had to dig through a box to find it, and brought it back to him. And then he started talking about leaving the horses behind and I was really believing that he was going to send us off somewhere! Hadn’t I been shipped off enough already this summer?! But then he started to laugh.
He had been joking.
I immediately had to stare down at Bright’s mane and blink rapidly, fighting back tears. I hate jokes like that. I know I trust people too easily, and I shouldn’t, but that didn’t make them anymore hurtful. Bright turned his head and nudged my boot with his nose, ears drooping. He didn’t like that I was upset. I managed a shaky smile, trying to hide how upset I was.
At least Conrad had been fixing the tools while we were messing around with the tent. We took them to Bonnie, and I was still upset so I let Savvy do most of the talking. Apparently, Bonnie was still too traumatized to fix the clock, so she upgraded us to apprentices and told us how to fix the clock. Savvy made a list of the steps on her phone so we would do them in the right order, thankfully.
But we had barely stepped inside when I remembered what we had found in that clock tower yesterday. I moaned about the rats, and gave a brief prayer that there weren’t wasps before I hid behind Savvy again. I had the oil in my hands, and I had a death grip on it. Savvy took the lead, keeping us on the right track. After she used the wrench on the wheel, I poured the oil (or, well, diesel) into the funnel. We had to turn the key and pull the lever together, they were so heavy and stiff. Either Bonnie was stronger than she appeared, or the clock was in worse shape than she had seen in the dark.
As soon as Bonnie had been given the all clear, she was immediately rushing to take credit and receive praise from the councilman. Honestly. And poor Gilbert looked so baffled, which was upsetting Bonnie. It was time for some teamwork. I took Gilbert and explained to him in whispers that Bonnie needed a self-esteem boost or she might leave and then the clock would fall into disrepair again and then where would he be? That got him into the spirit of things, and he made a proper fuss over her. That made her feel better, and she gave us versions of her waistcoat.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to ride around looking like Bonnie, but it was a very handsome red waistcoat. I hummed and decided to hang on to it for now.
At that point, Savvy wouldn’t do a thing except call Judy for a pick up. She was that put-out. I teased her about needing a hug, finally starting to feel better after the blacksmith’s bad attempt at humor.
We arrived back at the winery, and I immediately found a way to distract Savvy. The fungus was here, and I wanted it gone. Now. I took to Bright’s stall first to show Savvy what I was doing, my pony happy enough to temporarily share box space with Evening. I scraped out hay fodder, wood chips, all the way down to the rubber mats until Savvy and I could pick up corners of the mat and drag it to a wheel burrow to take outside. We washed it and hung it over a fence to dry, and I then scrapped every scrap of leftover hay and wood chips from the stone floor.
Then I had to go to Judy. I explained what Josh had noticed, and she went to see for herself. She picked up Bright’s hoof (much to his annoyance) and immediately agreed. She pointed out the blackness of the matter and the sickly sweet, soil smell coming from what she just flaked off with her thumb from around the frog. She didn’t look happy to see it, and understandably so! It could rot my poor pony’s feet to death! She offered to get me some disinfectant to scrub the feet out and then an ointment to soak in cotton balls and pack in the cleft.
Bright’s panic didn’t help my nerves much, but I understood. I patted his rump and shook my head on the ointment for now. If the clean stall and more daily pickings didn’t work in a couple days, we’d start the ointment whether he wanted it or not. But simple solutions first. Judy told me where they kept the stall disinfecting supplies and extra mats, and I already knew where the bedding materials were, so I darted off for those while she checked Star’s feet.
I came back with what I needed to go after Bright’s stall, and she shook her head before I even opened my mouth to ask. Star was apparently clean, at least right now. We just couldn’t be sure if it was the stalls here, or the barge which had caused it (my money was on the latter). For now, I suggested giving all the stalls a thorough cleaning (if not quite as insane as what I was currently doing to Bright’s) to be safe for all the horses. Judy agreed and left us to it.
While Bright’s stall dried from chemicals and water, I helped Savvy with stripping the other stalls and loading them up with fresh chips and fodder. We didn’t bother with their mats, though, since none of them had the problem. By then, Bright’s stall was dry so I could put down the new mat, then plenty of wood chips and hay to make a bed for him.
He sniffed and shifted around once I moved him back to his own box. Evening snorted and stuck his head over the partition that I had taken the metal grating down between (no reason my horses couldn’t interact with each other at least). I thought my horse was pouting! I don’t know why, the smell of the disinfectant, as gentle as it was, was still burning my nose. I can’t imagine what it was doing to theirs.
Before lunch, I tucked my allowance in my savings wallet (which I had wisely stopped carrying with me after my impulse buy of Bright). Alex found us before we made it into the dining hall, wanting to talk over lunch. We grabbed some food from the buffet that could be taken outside, and claimed the picnic table next to Carney for our meeting. It felt a lot like needlessly reharshing what we already knew, but I went along with it.
In the end, she decided we needed to go to Valedale and meet her superior, Elizabeth Sunbeam. Alex had been keeping her up to date, but she thought us talking to her would shake something loose. I suppose she had a point, since this Elizabeth might think of different questions when talking to us than she would with Alex. But I got those tingles on the back of my neck again, which made me leery. Last time, they had been trying to warn me about Sabine. What were they warning me about now?
We finished our lunch in a rush, cleaned up after ourselves, and fetched the horses. Evening was horribly impatient. I didn’t even have my right foot in the stirrup and off he went! I yelped and struggled to get my balance, finally getting my foot in the stirrup. I heard Savvy laughing, and turned around to stick my tongue out at her. Honestly, how did I end up with the cantankerous one?
Nothing could ever be that simple. Savvy’s Heart heard something, and walked off to the side, and without needing any permission from me, Evening followed along behind her. There was a bird on a rock, just singing away. But it was rather distressed. Savvy asked her horse if she was joking, confusing me, but the mare just started walking around, ignoring Savvy’s protests.
I wasn’t in any position to help. Evening immediately went off as well, not too close to Heart but enough that I was in viewing/hearing distance of Savvy. “Evening!” I protested. “What in the world are you doing?”
He paused, turned his head to look at me, and snorted. By then, I heard Savvy talking about baby birds, and stood up in the stirrups to look. Savvy looked embarrassed about all of it, but I couldn’t help but coo over the poor, lost dearlings. We had to find them and get them home to their mother! We rode along at a trot, scanning for the baby birds. They were so excited and bouncing around, they weren’t hard. Evening didn’t wait for me to dismount, just stopping when we found one and lowering his head. They would cheep and then flutter their way up his neck.
Since I was obviously not the one in charge, I tied the reins to the saddle and held the babies in my arms gently. They called out for the siblings, making it that much easier to find all of them. But when we took them back to their mother, I saw that they had actually fallen out of a birdhouse. One too high for us to reach as we were.
Well, no help for it. I handed Savvy my share of the baby birds, kicked my feet out of the stirrups, and glared down at Evening’s mane. “Stand still, and I mean it,” I told him, and then rested all the weight in my hands to slowly get one of my feet under me in the seat of the saddle. He swung his head to stare at me, wide eyed, but did as I said. I got my second foot under me, and then very slowly started to straighten up.
I had goofed off on Snow at school, but this was a lot easier. Evening actually did what I said, not even shifting his weight. Savvy was staring at me like I had lost my mind, but when I held out my hands, she offered me one of the babies. I still wasn’t tall enough, even on Evening’s back, to reach the house, but I was high enough that they could jump the rest of the distance themselves now.
Once they were safely up in their tree…I had to figure out how to get down. Evening dared turn his head to look at me with this expression that said what he was thinking quite clearly, that being, “Yes, genius, now how are you going to get back to sitting in my saddle where you belong without cracking your silly noggin open?”
“Oh, bugger off,” I whispered at him. He snorted and I felt like he was laughing at me.
I really, really wish English saddles had those funny knobs in the front like Western ones did. But I managed to crouch back down with only a couple wobbles and from there it was easy to slide back into sitting, though I breathed a sigh of relief when I did. At least the mama bird looked happy, and we were now on our way back to Valedale.
But there was no ignoring the fact that Savvy was interacting with Heart the same way I was with Evening. Something I had never seen before. I kept looking at her, trying to figure out how to bring it up. Could I really have found someone like me?